Easter and beyond: because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 24, 2016

Empty cross and forsythia in Sacred Garden, St. Mary’s Church, Cochrane, symbolize the risen Christ’s triumph over death and the grave. Photo by Warren Harbeck

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” The words of the popular gospel song echo in the hearts of many these days as they face struggles and injustices. Indeed, is this not what Easter is about?

As a personal reflection on this holiest day of the Christian calendar, I’d like to highlight two important teachings from the Scriptures on Jesus’ resurrection.

The first is that Jesus, put to death on a cross, had risen to life again, affirming His identity as the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” – Christianity’s definitive claim so powerfully celebrated in the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Handel’s Messiah.

As the Apostle Paul said in his Letter to the Philippians (NRSV translation):

“Christ Jesus . . . emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

The second is that the grave does not have the last word. There is life after our mortal existence. Jesus had gained victory over humanity’s most dreaded enemy, the fear of Death. Not even life’s injustices and struggles need intimidate us into perverting our imageness of God for the sake of fame, fortune, or even physical survival.

As another New Testament book, the Letter to the Hebrews, says in words written to encourage believers suffering persecution and potential martyrdom for their faith:

“(Look) to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” (Hebrew 12:2-3)

And contrary to the thinking of those who would choose to ignore Christ’s resurrection, seeing Him at best as just a great moral teacher, the Apostle Paul says in another of his letters to those suffering for their faith:

“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Was it not this verse – and even more so, the next – that inspired Handel to compose the aria that follows the “Hallelujah Chorus”?

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.”

I often think about these hope-filled words when I make springtime pilgrimages to the Sacred Garden at St. Mary’s Church in Cochrane. Standing stark and empty on one side of the garden is an old rugged cross. A few years ago I noticed some especially glorious forsythia blossoms triumphing over that empty cross and announcing the arrival of new life. They seemed to be mocking death’s failure to extinguish the Light that shines in the darkness.

Yes! Because He lives, we, too, can face tomorrow.


© 2016 Warren Harbeck

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